On a six-star, so-called luxury cruise a few years ago, we were in the bar one evening, everyone dressed to the nines, sipping cocktails and getting to know one another. We asked a selection of our new friends who hailed from various parts of the world, what the term luxury meant to them. Most of them said that they had never really thought about it. Indeed, these were people who, by all external standards, might be considered to live a luxurious life as a result of their income and standard of living. They were, however, not among the idle rich. All were successful in their chosen fields: medicine, law, business (the latter of which seem to have the most money of all).
When they were finally able to answer the question, they didn’t suggest jewelry, designer duds and handbags, or even private jets (although, admittedly, the private jet experience might be a luxury we might enjoy – but only if the service was terrific – which is at the heart of this story). Luxury to them included things like “having someone to wash my hair every day for me,” and “fresh sheets on my bed every single day.” Not quite what you might have imagined. But luxury means different things to different people, and for these discerning travelers, service is at the heart of the luxurious experience. Our recent cruise on the Yachts of Seabourn (on the Seabourn Spirit) was, then, one of the most luxurious experiences we’ve ever had. Bar none.
After five wonderful days at The House in Barbados (the subject of our last post), we thought that the service they gave could not be topped. We were wrong.
Arriving at the cruise terminal in Bridgetown, Barbados, we were greeted by a Seabourn representative who had our luggage whisked away, and directed us to the private transport. We mention this only because two years ago when we cruised from Bridgetown on Seabourn’s competitor in the luxury cruise business, Silversea, they put us on buses with hot, dirty and damp revelers from several other mega-ships who all looked at us as if we had three heads, and gave us the stink eye for taking up space with our hand luggage. Not this time, though. The transport was just for Seabourn’s embarking guests.
If you’ve ever been on a mainstream cruise, especially one that leaves from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, then you’re familiar with the cavernous cruise terminals where the lineups are legion. Even if you’re in a suite and have a dedicated, priority boarding line, the crowds are daunting and the service brisk if friendly. This is where the luxury cruise lines have all of those others beat: personalized service where you feel important right from the start.
Once on board, we were ushered into a lounge where embarking passengers were sipping champagne and registering. Before long we had had our photos taken, our credit card registered and were on our way to our suite.
We have been in many lovely suites in our lives, and this one was attractive – not outstanding, but delightful nonetheless. Our suite stewardess arrived in due course to provide us with another glass of champagne (to add to the bottle chilling in a silver ice bucket on the dining table in the suite) and offer us a selection of high-end soaps (Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, Molton Brown). All of this is very nice, but if the service isn’t terrific, then the experience is not luxurious. We were not to be disappointed!
After unpacking our suitcases which arrived in record time and settling everything nicely into the very spacious suite with oodles of storage space, we attended the life boat drill, explored the admittedly small ship and eventually made our way to the dining room for dinner. As we approached the Maître d’ he greeted us by name and asked us for our table preference, since we can eat whenever we want with whomever we want – even just ourselves. This ability to identify the guests by sight on first meeting is impressive – no doubt they have access to all of our photos!
The food was really wonderful, but the service was even better. Every day we were on board, we ate at least two meals in the dining room and were impressed with the service from everyone from the bus boys through the servers to the sommelier who was particularly service-oriented.
Bar service (any drink you desire, sir), deck service (would you like a drink, sorbet in the afternoon, a cool towel?), spa service (how can we help?), front desk service (is there anything you’d like fixed in your suite? Yes? Done!).
All in all, a vacation to remember – and a luxurious experience to repeat – which we certainly will. Seabourn, you’ve beaten Silversea and Regent.
And we haven’t even told you yet about caviar (and champagne) in the surf – but we will!
Come along with us and tour our suite: Owner’s Suite #5 on the Spirit.
And…then tour the ship if you have a few minutes…